A Community Lullaby for the Cradle Project

A big thank you to Julia Chiapella, Director of the Young Writers Program for this blog post. Matching The Cradle Project with the Young Writers Program, in hindsight, was not only serendipitous but a pairing of efforts in support of young people: the one in Africa and the other here on the home turf.

Julia Chiapella writing on the Community Lullaby

Last Friday night the Museum of Art and History at 705 Front Street hosted the Poetry and Book Arts Festival. The Firelight Foundation’s Cradle Project exhibit on the third floor at MAH was a perfect spot for the Young Writers Program to land. Co-sponsored by Santa Cruz Writes and the Santa Cruz County Office of Education, the Young Writers Program puts community volunteers into grades 4-12 classrooms throughout Santa Cruz County to work on teacher-initiated writing projects. Projects last for four to six weeks and, at their conclusion, students’ writing is often professionally edited, published, and available to the public in local bookstores.

Friday night’s station at the entrance to the Cradle Project exhibit came about after a brainstorming session with MAH’s Director of Community Engagement, Stacey Marie Garcia. Stacey, ever supportive of the program’s efforts, had invited YWP to participate in the festival. We could do a poetry workshop. Or how about a short poem in a book-making session?

Given our time and staff constraints, preparation and execution needed to be simple. The Cradle Project—its quietly somber yet sweet quality setting the tone—was a natural launching pad for poetry. But how to frame it? After running through de rigueur options like couplets and haiku, the simplicity of the cradle as a setting for an infant’s settling down provided the path, the answer bubbling up in an “ah-ha” moment: the lullaby.

Using The Cradle Project as inspiration, guests attending the Poetry and Book Arts Festival would contribute to a Community Lullaby, adding their words to a scroll attached to the wall. Beginning the lullaby were these words:

“Child, you are traveling.

For a map, pull the stars.”

That night, visitors were enthralled by the exhibit and the lullaby grew, with the community creating a piece that urged all children—both those orphaned by AIDS and famine and those born into the pull of our hyper-connected world—to dance and follow their dreams.

As Director of the Young Writers Program, it was a pleasure to collaborate with MAH and the Firelight Foundation on a project that seamlessly blended our linked objectives: education and community. If you didn’t get a chance to see The Cradle Project, by all means, catch it while you can. And for more information on the Young Writers Program, go to santacruzwrites.org.